SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The Copa America semifinals are again missing a local favorite.
Argentina did its part, but Brazil — as in the World Cup a year ago, and in this same South American championship four years ago — no longer shines like it once did and is again out early in a major championship.
Paraguay knocked out the five-time World Cup winner Saturday 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. This was not as shocking as Germany’s 7-1 humiliation of Brazil in the semifinals a year ago in Brazil’s own World Cup, but it’s a reminder that the country has lost some of its mystique and no longer plays the so-called “jogo bonito.”
Paraguay it no stranger to this tournament. It was the losing finalist four years ago against Uruguay and could be headed to the finals again. It faces Argentina on Tuesday in one semifinal, and host Chile goes against Peru on Monday in the other.
The final is July 4.
Not only is Argentina in the semifinals, but all four teams are coached by Argentines: Jorge Sampaoli with Chile, Ricardo Gareca with Peru, Ramon Diaz with Paraguay and Gerardo Martino with Argentina.
Here’s a quick look at the last four.
PRESSURE ON MESSI
Argentina star Lionel Messi is under pressure to finally deliver, the way he has for his club team Barcelona. Two-time World Cup champion Argentina has not won a major title in 22 years, and Messi is expected to change that.
Messi and Argentina were knocked out of this tournament four years ago in the quarterfinals at home in Argentina, and lost the World Cup final 1-0 to Germany a year ago.
Messi must be tired. Barcelona won the Champions League title against Juventus in Berlin. He then traveled halfway around the globe with the Copa America starting just five days later.
Messi has scored only one goal in the tournament, and Argentina has scored only four in four matches. It defeated Colombia 5-4 on penalties after a scoreless draw in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“It’s terrible how hard it is for me to score for the national team,” said Messi, who has 46 goals for Argentina, second to leader Gabriel Batistuta with 56.
PARAGUAY, TIED UP
Paraguay reached the 2011 finals without winning a single match. It had three draws in group play, and two more in the quarterfinals and semifinals, where it won on penalties.
Paraguay finished last in 2014 World Cup qualifying from South America, but has rebounded under new coach Diaz, who was the most successful coach at Buenos Aires club River Plate before moving to Paraguay.
“We’ve played against Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and none could beat us,” Diaz said.
Paraguay drew 2-2 with Argentina in group play, and 1-1 with Uruguay before ousting Brazil on Saturday.
CHILE HAS EXPECTATIONS
Chile has never won the title, and this is supposed to be the year with top players — called the “Golden Generation” — like midfielder Arturo Vidal of Juventus, forward Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal, and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo of Barcelona in its side.
Chile has been the best — and highest scoring team — in the tournament.
Chile will be without key defender Gonzalo Jara who was banned Sunday for three matches and will miss the rest of the tournament.
Jara was caught on camera poking Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani in the rear during Chile’s 1-0 victory over defending champion Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Cavani reacted and was sent off.
Chile, Venezuela and Ecuador are the only teams yet to win the South American championship.
PERU STILL THERE
Peru is the surprise, and it also has a longstanding regional rivalry with Chile. Peru opened with a 2-1 loss to Brazil, but defeated Venezuela 1-0 and then reached the quarterfinals with a scoreless draw against Colombia.
Paolo Guerrero scored all three goals in Peru’s 3-1 victory over Bolivia in the quarterfinals.
“We are showing that this team wants to keep going,” Guerrero said. “We want to get better, and we hope this is the start of something.”
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